An initiative of the Center for the Future of Arizona




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Latino Students Beat the Odds
Published: November 14, 2012 Written by Hispanic-Today

Beat the Odds Institute, an initiative of the Center for the Future of Arizona, began as a research study: What does it take to get great educational achievement in a school with mostly Latino school enrollment?

Based upon principles and methodology from Jim Collins, the business guru who wrote Good To Great and many best sellers, a three-year research study was conducted. The research was put into action and Beat the Odds Institute was founded.

Five years later, principals from 141 school partners throughout Arizona have participated in Beat the Odds utilizing the research on keys to success. Did it make a difference? How are these low income minority-intensive schools performing?

Dr. Lattie Coor, chairman and CEO of the Center for the Future of Arizona, said, "Beat the Odds has demonstrated that demography is not destiny. The Beat the Odds Six Keys to Success for improving student achievement are effective. The central focus on improving achievement for every student in every classroom is correct."

Beat the Odds focuses on K-12 schools where at least 50 percent of the students are on free or reduced lunch and at least 50 percent are minority, primarily Latino. School partners include public, charter and tribal Arizona schools in Maricopa, Pima, Graham and Yuma counties.

According to the Research Into Action report released today:

  • On state rankings released in fall 2011, 83 percent of Beat the Odds partner schools earned labels better than performing compared to 79 percent for similar schools not in the program and 69 percent for all Arizona schools.

  • The percentage of Beat the Odds schools meeting and exceeding standards on Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS) reading tests in 2011 exceeded similar schools not in the program and all Arizona schools.

  • The percentage of Beat the Odds schools meeting and exceeding standards on the Arizona state math tests (AIMS) in 2011 exceeded similar schools not in the program.

A Strong And Steady Principal Is Essential

One of Beat the Odds Six Keys To Success is in a strong and steady principal -- leaders must focus on truly improving schools and keep pushing ahead, no matter what the roadblocks. The Beat the Odds School Partners Program provides individualized mentoring, partner meetings, seminars, resources and support to principals.

The pilot program began with 27 schools. For the 2012-2013 academic school year, 80 schools are participating. Schools typically participate for three years. A district-wide model was introduced in 2010 and, in addition to principals, services are now offered to assistant and aspiring principals and district office staff.

"The network of Beat the Odds partner principals has proven to be one of the most valuable features of the program," Dr. Marjorie Kaplan, director of Beat the Odds Institute, said. "Collaborative teamwork and strong mentors are pivotal to helping partners accomplish their goals."

  • Statewide, more than 95 percent of principals who participated in 2011-2012 cohort meetings and trainings held throughout the school year ranked them good or better.

  • Principals have said their most valuable Beat the Odds experience is the opportunity to network and collaborate with other principals across districts.

Latino Education Crucial To Arizona 's Future

According to the report, Latinos, Arizona 's fastest growing population segment, continue to struggle against barriers to educational achievement and lag well behind the state's White population in educational performance. Latino youth comprise 43 percent of Arizona's K-12 enrollment and will soon become the majority in Arizona .

"A well-educated workforce is essential to Arizona 's future and economic well-being," Dr. Coor said. "While progress has been made in improving academic achievement in our partner schools, Beat the Odds should strive to reach every low-income, minority-intensive school in Arizona ."

Moving forward, Beat the Odds Institute looks to expand public awareness on how the state can successfully educate students from every socioeconomic level and work more collaboratively with other organizations to ensure that students graduate prepared for college and careers.

Plans also call for continued expansion of the district-wide program; development of electronic and interactive delivery systems; and to increasingly incorporate technology to track student achievement and for digital learning in the classroom.

Beat the Odds Six Keys To Success

  • Clear Bottom Line -- emphasize the achievement of every student in every classroom and take responsibility for that performance. No excuses.

  • Ongoing Assessment -- assess student performance early and often. Use information to drive improvement rather than to assign blame.

  • Strong and Steady Principal -- leaders are focused on the things that truly improve schools and keep pushing ahead, no matter what the roadblocks.

  • Collaborative Solutions -- responsibility for improvement is shared among all, not concentrated at the top.

  • Stick with the Program -- magic occurs when the school finds a good program and sticks with it.

  • Built to Suit -- customize instruction and intervention to fit the needs of each student. One size does not fit all.

About The Center for the Future of Arizona

The Center for the Future of Arizona www.ArizonaFuture.org is an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Its mission is to help Arizonans shape and define the future through an action-oriented agenda focused on contemporary issues and topics critical to the state. More than a think tank, the center is an independent “do tank” that combines public-policy research with collaborative partnerships and initiatives that will create new opportunities for all Arizonans.

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